BUCKSPORT, Maine — The owner of the former Verso Paper mill site is preparing to sell the site’s electrical plant to a New York-based firm for an undisclosed price.
Stonepeak Kestrel Holdings III has applied for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of its plans to buy the 161-megawatt natural gas- and oil-fired generator from AIM Development USA, according to a FERC filing released Thursday.
The sale would be the latest property flip performed by site owner American Iron and Metal since the Canadian scrap-metal recycler purchased the Verso site for $58 million in 2015. A $180 million Atlantic salmon farm and a Maine Maritime Academy adult-education annex are in the works at the site. Both developments are part of a reinvention of sorts in a town that suffered the loss of 570 jobs with the paper mill’s closure in 2014.
Stonepeak is a subsidiary of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in New York City that invests in energy and utilities and managed more than $15 billion in capital as of June 2018.
Town Manager Susan Lessard said she expected the public to see little external impact from a change in plant ownership. The plant will continue to supply electricity to the site and supplement the New England power grid in emergencies.
“AIM’s goal with its purchase of this site was the redevelopment of the site,” Lessard said. “I’m not sure that it ever saw itself as a long-term holder of the property.”
The power plant is “another asset on the property which they purchased, which they’ve invested a good deal of money in and which, now that it is part of the backup to the grid, is very salable,” Lessard added.
The assessed value of the power plant is $42 million, after the town agreed to reduce it from $60 million earlier this year. AIM, the town’s top taxpayer, employs 10 workers there, said Jeff McGlin, a vice president at AIM Development. He declined to comment further.
Among Stonepeak Kestrel Holdings’ most recent purchases are three natural gas- and oil-fired plants in Sandwich, Massachusetts, that it bought for $390 million in March 2018, according to news accounts.
One Stonepeak property listed in the FERC paperwork has some similarities to the Bucksport site. A 116-megawatt plant it owns in Rochester, New York, generates 98 percent of the electricity used by the Eastman Business Park complex — where Kodak started manufacturing film and photographic paper in 1891 — with the remaining 2 percent sold to wholesale energy markets in New York State.
AIM officials told Lessard on Wednesday that they hope to conclude the sale by Nov. 1. As part of the permit, AIM asked FERC to conclude the mandatory 45-day public comment period and issue an order approving the transaction by Nov. 18.
While the power plant is located on a 3.9-acre parcel, AIM is hoping to sell slightly more land as part of the transaction with Stonepeak by taking land from a nearby lot that it still owns.
The Bucksport Planning Board will review the map change in a special meeting on Oct. 29.